Update: Hours after the publication of this article, at 7:59 p.m. ET, Bad Bunny spoke with Time about the #BLM uprising.
Sometime in 2017, the quirky, slightly odd and exuberant Puerto Rican trapero, Bad Bunny, slowly shifted from singing about preferred strains of sticky, to loudly decrying various societal ills on his social media channels. From a nail salon’s refusal to serve him based on gender, to chagrin at the way we’ve been conditioned to expect women to groom—reiterating the long-beloved psalm of “long hair, don’t care”—Benito sprouted conscious seedlings as his artistry took cohesive form.
Subsequently, those seedlings flourished, and Bad Bunny became one of the strongest voices in the entertainment world. Not only in popularity, but in regard to social justice causes. Over the course of two years, Benito was at the front line of protests to oust Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rossello, loudly spoke up against femicide and trans issues and, more recently, wore drag in a genre steeped in machismo.
Then, in May, he tweeted, “bye, me fui,” and just like that—moments before the dawn of a new world—Bad Bunny se fue.
bye, me fui
— (@sanbenito) May 19, 2020
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder by cop, the Black Lives Matter movement bubbled up across the world, with thousands taking to the streets in an uprising showing no signs of dissipating. With these mass protests and demonstrations came a wave of activity across social media. Those who were unable to physically attend were asked to share resources or donate funds in efforts to raise awareness.
Some artists followed suit. Others, like many of Bad Bunny’s contemporaries, stumbled through oblivious, and at times even problematic statements before finally landing on better-thought-out, possibly publicist-formulated proclamations of support for Black lives and the uprising.
Yet throughout all of this, perhaps the brightest social justice beacon in reggaeton, Latin trap and sometimes dembow, is nowhere to be found.
It is of course, unfair to assign a lion’s share of the pressure on one artist to speak out. There are others, after all, who are more preoccupied with promoting new music or showing off their quarantine haircuts to make statements. And no matter what, Bad Bunny will not end racism. The #BLM movement doesn’t need him. No words or even direct action by the 26-year-old rapper will solve the cancerous structures of white supremacy.
But as an artist who expressly tethers his career to social justice causes, Bad Bunny’s silence is worth 1,000 words.
Bad Bunny has had a nearly free pass to teeter the line between problematic and socially conscious, often by playing a perfectly-curated game of push and pull. One might gasp at a lyric suggesting the only reason to call at a certain hour is if there’s willingness to perform fellatio, then swoon as he reveals his support of a murdered trans woman on American TV.
To build one’s mega platform and draw a larger fanbase by selectively partaking in social consciousness and then turn off the lights in the middle of what is perhaps the single most important social justice movement of our lifetime feels duplicitous and sinister.
Past activism aside, the very genres Benito has made his fame and fortune on are perpetually indebted to Black artists who never had the opportunity to cameo on SNL.
Unfortunately, for many, there is no break.
The support of Black lives is of course first and foremost, a human rights issue. Striving for the kind of equality we have yet to see in humanity’s history should be everyone’s struggle. But as as someone who’s become one of the biggest artists on the planet on the shoulders of Black genres, his hesitation to speak out is devastating to the millions of fans who do f*ck with Benito because he champions their causes.
Given the timing, it’s likely he had a planned and possibly much-needed mental health break, which wouldn’t be his first. It’s also plausible, given his level of privilege, that he’s been hiding out in a remote cabin somewhere with no access to the internet or a phone. At the end of the day, everyone should be afforded the right to check out on occasion.
Yet, unfortunately, for many, there is no break. And as the outspoken advocate he’s made us believe he is, now is not the time for silence.